By Justin Mays:
Close to the shores of the Golden Horn, Galata Tower, at 67-meters, rises above neighboring Karakoy and the historical buildings of its namesake neighborhood in the district of Beyoglu. It has stood there from 500 A.D. on, making it one of Istanbul's iconic monuments and one of the most popular touristic sights in Istanbul.
About Galata Tower's History
The Galata Tower was once used as a watchtower to defend the city as a lookout for fires that used to plague the wooden buildings of the historical peninsula. Byzantine Emperor Justinian initially built it in 507-508 AD in a Romanesque architectural style. When the Galata neighborhood was walled in the colony of the Republic of Genoa, the tower was rebuilt in 1348-49. The area remained settled by the Genoese merchants who came to trade with the Ottoman Empire between 1273 and 1453, and their influences remain today.
When Mehmed the Conqueror captured Constantinople, the residents of Galata, the majority of which were Genoese and Venetian Catholics with Armenians, Greek, and Jewish minorities the area maintained formal neutrality during the siege. The Galata Tower was damaged by an earthquake in 1509 and was repaired by Ottoman architect Murad bin Hayreddin III. In the late 16th century, astrologer Takiyüddin Efendi added an observatory at the very top. Probably the most famous legend of the tower happened in 1638 when Ottoman scientist, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi, attached wings to his body to fly across the Bosphorus to Uskudar. It is unclear how much of the whimsical story is true, but it is a vision to imagine this man flying across the city with his homemade wings.
The tower twice became a prison, once under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent's reign and later under Sultan Murat III. In 1831 the tower suffered a fire and gained two flights and its cone-shaped rooftop during repairs. Until the 1960s, it was a fire lookout tower but now houses a small museum and balcony to enjoy the views of the city.
In 2013 Galata tower was included in UNESCO World Heritage provisional list. Today it stands as a potent symbol of the city with its 3.75-meter-thick walls and is open for the public to enjoy.
Visiting Galata Tower
Opening hours, location, and more.
The tower is open from 9:00-22:00 daily. The entry fee is 130 Turkish Lira. Keep in mind that the queue can get long during the summer season. An elevator will take you up the first seven floors, but it does not go all the way to the top. People with limited mobility should know there will be climbing stairs to continue to the viewing deck.
How to get to Galata Tower
From Taksim, Tophane and Karakoy
The closest metro stop is Sishane. Alternatively, you can take the historical Tunel, the second oldest metro in the world, up the hill from Karakoy. Walk down pedestrianized Istiklal Caddesi from Taksim Square as it slopes past the Galata Mevlevi House Museum to the square surrounding the tower. Alternatively, take the tram to Tophane or Karakoy and meander up the hill.
Walk from one of Istanbul's best design streets, Sedar-I Ekrem, and see what some of the city's best independent designers are producing. Galata neighborhood is not just limited to this one site but is full of cafes, hotels, and shops selling fun souvenirs to visit.
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